We’re pleased to be included in the fifth edition of Designing Brand Identity, by Alina Wheeler. This comprehensive guide to brand identity is a valuable resource for designers, marketers, CEOs, brand builders and internal teams. For the new edition, we contributed a list of key principles of brand naming to consider when renaming your product or a company.
Ten Principles for Renaming
by Marshall Strategy
- Be clear about why change is needed. You should have a compelling reason, and clear business benefits, for going through the name change process. Making a strong case for change – whether legal, market-based or other, will help rise above emotional issues and enable a more successful and meaningful effort.
- Assess the impact of change. A name change is more complicated than creating a new name because it affects established brand equity and all existing brand communications. You should conduct a thorough audit of equity and communication assets, to fully understand how a name change will affect your investments and operations.
- Know what your choices are. Depending on your reason for change, it can be very difficult to consider change in the abstract. It is much easier to commit to a change when you have alternative names to consider that solve your communication issues.
- Know what you are trying to say before you name it. Naming is a highly emotional issue that can be hard to judge objectively. By first agreeing on what your new name should say, you concentrate your efforts on choosing the name that says it best.
- Avoid trendy names – By definition, these are names that will lose their appeal over time. Choosing a new name simply because it sounds “hip” or “cool” generally results in names that wear quickly.
- “Empty Vessel Names” require filling. Made-up or meaningless names will require more investment to build understanding, memorability and proper spelling than names that have some inherent meaning. Compare the immediate meaning and relevance of names like Google and Amazon to empty vessels like Kijiji and Zoosk.
- Avoid names that are too specific. This may be the reason you needed to change in the first place. Names that identify a specific geography, technology or trend might be relevant for a period of time, but in the long run they could restrict your ability to grow.
- Understand that a new name can’t do everything. Names are powerful tools, but they do not tell the whole story. A name change alone – without rethinking of all brand communications – could risk being seen as superficial. Consider how new taglines, design, communications and other context-building tools should work with the new name to build a rich new story that you can own.
- Ensure you can own it. Check patent and trademark offices, common law usages, URL’s, Twitter handles and regional/cultural sensitivities before you decide, and make the investment to protect your name. This is best done by an experienced intellectual property attorney.
- Transition with confidence. Make sure you introduce your new name as part of a value-oriented story that conveys clear benefits to your employees, customers and shareholders. The message “we’ve changed our name” on its own generally falls flat. Commit to the change with confidence and implement as quickly and efficiently as possible. Having two names in the market at the same time is confusing to both internal and external audiences.
If you wish to make a meaningful statement, a name change is not enough. The name should represent a unique, beneficial, and sustainable story that resonates with customers, investors, and employees.
Philip Durbrow, Chairman & CEO, Marshall Strategy
Companies change their names for many reasons, but in every case, a clear rationale for change with strong business and brand benefits is critical.
Ken Pasternak, Managing Director, Marshall Strategy
|The Banker’s Life Company
|Principal Financial Group
|Ciba Geigy + Sandoz
|Comcast (Consumer Services)
|International Business Machines
|GMAC Financial Services
|Kentucky Fried Chicken
|Kraft Snacks Division
|United Telephone Company